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1 / Converging Cultures

Portrait of East India Company Official (probably William Fullerton)
Portrait of East India Company Official (probably William Fullerton)
Artist / Origin Dip Chand (Indian, active 18th c.)
Date 1760-63
Material Opaque watercolor on paper
Medium: Painting
Dimensions H: 10 ½ in. (26.2 cm.), W: 9 in. (22.7 cm.)
Location The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
Credit Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London/Art Resource, NY

expert perspective

Romita RayAssistant Professor of Art History, Syracuse University
Romita RayAssistant Professor of Art History, Syracuse University

Portrait of East India Company Official (probably William Fullerton)

» Dip Chand (Indian, active 18th c.)

expert perspective

Romita Ray Romita Ray Assistant Professor of Art History, Syracuse University

The name Company School is associated with the East India Company. There are many British artists who arrive, some of them are professionals, some amateur, but this was specifically used for Indian artists who are commissioned by various administrators of the company, of the East India Company.

Before the British arrive there’s such a rich tradition of painting already in India. With Company School artists, all were probably trained in Indian techniques. They were all established artists already. And they do study, of course, also the European techniques—I’m not just going to restrict myself to British because the British scene fits into the larger scene of European ideas about perspective and depth, etc. And so they do look at that as well. So there’s this wonderful fusion of styles in their work.

First of all, we’ve got much more of a flattened perspective sometimes with the Company School artists, which harkened back to their Indian training where the idea of depth is handled very differently than what we find, let’s say, in a European composition. It’s handled in a more abstract manner. Even though it’s flattened, we still have a sense of what would be in the foreground space, and the mid-ground, and the background space. You don’t necessarily have the three-point perspective, but you still have a sense of depth over there. Some may call them very stylized, you know, that’s a word that oftentimes gets used when we look at Company paintings because of that flattened depth as well as perspective. And that’s really the hallmark.” 

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